Africa has traditionally been a bucket-list destination for the high-income, 55-plus traveler. The traveler who was in their 20s or 30s when "Out of Africa" first appeared in movie theatres.
But now, younger travelers are making their way to Africa, a traveler who is staying longer and wanting to explore the destination in-depth to soak up the wildlife experiences and culture.
"Our safaris tended to be for high-income and elite travelers, with the demographics skewed toward the older traveler because they have the time and the disposable income," said African Travel president Sherwin Banda.
However, Banda is now seeing the 35- to 55-year-old traveler heading to Africa. "They are dual-income earners and have traveled in the lap of luxury with their parents. They have become accustomed to luxury and are choosing to share this with their own kids. This is the fastest-growing demographic within the luxury space."
Young families are not the only growing demographic. Banda noted solo travel has also increased exponentially.
"Solo travel has increased double-digits to Africa," he said. "One of the blessings of Covid is that the attitudes have changed. People now think, 'I want to travel, but I have nobody to travel with. I'll just do it by myself.'"
Suzanne Bayly, owner of Classic Portfolio, said she has witnessed a similar trend. She has seen an increase in desire from solo travelers to explore wild corners of Africa and a higher demand for remote camps like Odzala Discovery Camps in the Republic of Congo.
"Interestingly, these far-flung locations, which provide an exciting one-stop adventure, are now on par with ease of access as the more mainstream destinations," she said. "It seems like a personal quest to explore the unexplored."
Banda urged the travel industry to start catering to these new demographics of travelers, whether this is scrapping the single supplement for solo travelers or catering for young families with three kids who require larger rooms. He explained that it's one of the areas where Africa is still trailing behind compared with the rest of the world.
Catering to the new travelers
"The traditional safari landscape has changed, and we have not changed with the times to be more relevant to the needs of our travelers, whether that is single supplements or whether that is accommodating families with young children," he said. "Camps that are going to be the most innovative in this space will be the camps that will have the biggest rewards."
Caroline Burke, general manager of business development for Singita, agreed and said travel agents have always welcomed the fact that Singita doesn't charge a single supplement because it makes the lodge an "easy sell" for clients.
"Many years ago, Singita decided that single travelers shouldn't have to pay significantly more than a couple when they stay with us," Burke said. "We also get a lot of families travelling with a single grandparent or adult child, who need their own room, and we felt that it helped with multigenerational bookings."
Maija de Rijk-Uys from Go2Africa said camps have already started adopting a more flexible approach to solo travelers. Although this could be a direct result of the impact Covid has had on the industry.
"Single supplements in the safari industry can be anything up to 75% of the per person rate (typically 50%), though we have noticed a trend of some camps removing their single supplement entirely," de Rijk-Uys said. "At the moment, we're seeing camps being fairly flexible on single supplements outside of peak season; at this stage, they'd rather sell a room for a reduced rate than not at all."
Scrapping the single supplement altogether is not always possible, however, according to Marcelo Novais, general manger for North America at Ker & Downey Africa.
"From a luxury safari perspective, the all-inclusive nature of the product is in place to split the cost of operations in remote regions among all guests, including provisions for meals and services, and therefore it is challenging to do away with a single supplement completely," Novais said.
Nicole Robinson, chief marketing officer for AndBeyond, said that although AndBeyond has amended its single supplement policy to only apply during high-demand periods, it is hard for safari lodges to remove the single supplement altogether due to the size of the properties.
"We call it the problem of small numbers," she said. "It is much easier to have more flexible yield policies with hotels with over 100 rooms. The opportunity cost of a single room is too significant for the commercial viability of the property."